How To Do Cuyahoga County, OH Deed Research In Your Pajamas, Part 1: Finding the Deeds You Need

I made a cool discovery today. I haven’t done a lot of Cleveland-area research, but after a recent family gathering with my wife’s Cleveland-based clan, I got all fired up to begin working on some of their mysteries. I got so fired up in fact, I seated myself in front of the computer. My initial goal was to see whether ir not the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s office would be open on New Year’s Eve day. As it turns out, all of their documents are available online, so they are effectively open all day, every day, and everything is free!

This may, in fact, not be new news to some, but hopefully at least a few people find this of use. I did a few queries to test that the very early deeds are in there, and they do seem to be there (I did a search for deeds between Dec 1811 and Jan 1812, and got several results). What a great tool to be able to use from the comfort of your living room, whenever is convenient for you. “Pajama Genealogy” is the term I believe applies to this sort of research.

Looking at the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Home page,  it actually tells potential researchers that this capability exists:

“This site is provided to allow the citizens of Cuyahoga County, and the world, access to information housed at our office. Here you will find data on all the documents filed at the Recorder’s office from 1810 until present day. You will discover that this site is the most comprehensive land data base in the world. We have endeavored to make your visit to our web site as “user-friendly” as possible and we are constantly working to improve user interaction.” ( Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Home Page )

While they are working to improve the user interaction – allow me to try and help using an example search for an infamous Clevelander.  Part 1 will help you find an image (deed) and get it downloaded.  Part 2 of this series will help you deal with the image once you’ve managed to download it.

Step 1: Go to the Cuyahoge County Recorder’s search page:  http://recorder.cuyahogacounty.us/Searchs/GeneralSearchs.aspx

Step 2: This will bring you to the page below. There are a number of intimidating looking selections, but really there are only 3 things you need to enter to search effectively:

  1. Enter the anti-spam characters as requested in the large box at the top of the search section.
  2. To make sure that the deed you are looking for is found, you need to change the search dates in the boxes next to “Enter Recording Date.” If you don’t know the name for sure, you can search exclusively by time frame.  However, withno other criteria, you are limited to a span of 15 days per search.
  3. Enter at least the last name of the person you are searching for (This can be either the grantor or grantee) in the appropriate box.
  4. Click “begin search”.

Note: This search does not appear to allow wildcards and is not a “soundex” search. It  returns both complete and partial matches. For some names this might not be an issue. In my case, with my wife’s Hungarian surnames spelled every way imaginable, it might take some creative searching to be sure I haven’t missed any deeds that are misspelled.

An example using an infamous Clevelander. I was looking for deeds involving Sam Sheppard. As noted, using "Shepard" in the Last Name box will not return these results, however using "Sam" in the First Name box will also return "Samuel" as a partial match. To be thorough I should also be searching Shepard and any other variants.

Step 3: With any luck, you will get a page (or more) of results.  The second column, labeled “AFN”, contains a hyperlink to a page with more info about that particular deed. It appears that “Name” column is the grantor and the “Assoc. Name” column is the grantee.

Search results page from the Sam Sheppard example. We will click on the AFN hyperlink for the first result to see the extracted details of this transaction

Step 4: Click the hyperlink in the AFN column of the deed you are interested in to get more information on a particular deed. This will take you to a page similar to the one below:

Detailed results page. This would appear to be a deed involving property rights inherited from the parents of Sam's wife, Marilyn. This is speculation at this point - based on the fact that two seemingly married couples (the Sheppards and Browns) plus another single Blake are the grantees and the grantor is another single Blake. We'll find out in Part 2!

Note: The “back” and “forward” buttons in your browser work between the search results page and the detail page. If the deed you clicked on is not of interest to you can use  your browser navigation to go back to the search results.


Thus far, things have been pretty straight forward.  Where I ran into trouble was being able to view all of the pages of a multi-page deed.  Let’s at least get to the first page, and we’ll address a couple of ways to see all of the pages in another post.


Step 5: Click on the “|View Image|” link under Search Results near the top-center of the page.  You will be asked to enter the anti-spam characters shown on the page again. Be sure to click the “View Image” button after entering them. Hitting “Enter” WILL NOT work, and you will be re-directed to another anti-spam page.

Verification page to download images. Be sure to click the button after entering. Pressing enter will only take you to another verification page.

At this point, there are a myriad of possibilities as to what might happen. What happens next will vary depending mainly on what internet browser you use, the settings for that browser, and what other software is installed on your computer. I can tell you that whatever set-up you have, it is pretty likely that out-of-the-gates, you will only be able to view the first page of any given deed. This is due to the file format that the images are saved in. The files are multi-page TIFF files. While great for quality, they are not necessarily something that most software programs handle well. In the next part, I’ll tell you what I did to solve this, and hopefully what you can do to achieve similar results.

For now, let’s look at the first page of the deed we found:

Page 1 of the Sheppard/Blake deed. As you can see, it is in fact property left behind by Marilyn Sheppard's family. For those who might be wondering, I do not necessarily have an interest in the Shepard case . I just thought an example with a name people from the area would know might be a little more interesting than my wife's Hungarian ancestors!

As you can see, despite a few warts, this is a really great tool for researching your Cuyahoga County ancestors! It’s always cool to see actual county records online – the stuff of “real” genealogical research…even if you are in your pajamas.

If any of you try this, I would be interested to hear what your experience was. This is my first attempt at a “how-to”, so I would love to hear how you made out. I had some trouble getting the blog formatting to do what I wanted, and eventually settled for what you see now. I will begin working on the second half of this post soon, but for now it’s time to clean the house to get ready to usher in 2010. Happy New Year’s everyone!

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3 Responses to How To Do Cuyahoga County, OH Deed Research In Your Pajamas, Part 1: Finding the Deeds You Need

  1. Pingback: Staats Place » Blog Archive » How To Do Cuyahoga County, OH Deed Research In Your Pajamas, Part 2: View, Save, and Print - A Little About Me

  2. avatar Delia Furrer says:

    Thank you for posting these “how-to” on Cuyahoga County! I had ancestors that lived there early and was able to print out very nice copies of deeds! It is hints like these that can be so helpful to us all. MANY THANKS!

  3. avatar Staats Chris says:

    Glad it was of use to you!